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Arabic term literally meaning garden everlasting, metaphorically tree garden of heaven. Janat Al-Baqi is a famous cemetery located in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. The cemetery is located just besides the prophet's Mosque. It is famous because many of the prophet's relatives and companions are buried in it. Many traditions narrate the prophet offering prayers every time he passed it, "Peace be upon you, O abode of the faithful! God willing, we should soon join you. O' Allah, forgive the fellows of al-Baqi". Another supplication by the prophet, "Peace be upon you, O inhabitants of the graves. May the Almighty Allah forgive us and you all. You are our forerunners and we shall certainly join you." And finally, "Peace be upon you, O abode of Believers. You are our forerunners and we will surely join you. O Allah! Do not deprive us of the reward of (supplicating for) them, nor lead us astray after them."

Ever since its inception 14 centuries ago up to the 20th century, many graves had domes or other ornamental structures. But after Ibn Saud took control of Madinah, many of these tombs and buildings were destroyed, due to Wahabisim ideals of not worshiping tombs. As a result, the graveyard is now nothing but a vast lot with crude headstones made of rock. Regardless, pilgrims continue to visit the graves of many historic figures. In addition, burials continue in the cemetery to this day.

Passions were inflamed on the 8th of Shawwal, Wednesday, 1345 AH, corresponding to April 21, 1925. On that day King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud demolished mausoleums in Madinah. And on the same year he took a similar stance in Jannat al-Mualla, located in Makkah, where the Prophet's mother, wife, grandfather and other ancestors are buried. Outcries took hold in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, India and Indonesia because Wahabism ideals were not popular among the majority Shafie and Hanafi schools.

The first companion of Muhammed buried in al-Baqi was Uthman bin Madhoon who died on the 3rd of Shaban in the 3rd year of Hijrah. The Prophet ordered certain trees to be cut down, and in its midst, he buried his companion, placing two stones over the grave. On the following years, the Prophet's son Ibrahim, who died in infancy and over whom the Prophet wept, was also buried there. The premises was gradually extended, accommodating nearly 7000 graves.

Partial list of important figures:





Umar bin Jubair wrote about Al-Baqi during his travel to Madina saying, "Al-Baqi is situated to the east of Madina. You enter it through the gate known as the gate of al-Baqi. As you enter, the first grave you see on your left is that of Safiya, the Prophet's aunt, and further still is the grave of Malik bin Anas, the Imam of Madina. On his grave is raised a small dome. In front of it is the grave of Ibrahim son of our Prophet with a white dome over it, and next to it on the right is the grave of Abdul-Rahman son of Umar bin al-Khattab, popularly known as Abu Shahma, whose father had kept punishing him till death overtook him. Facing it are the graves of Aqeel bin Abi Talib and Abdullah bin Ja'far al-Tayyar. There, facing those graves is a small shrine containing the graves of the Prophet's wives, following by a shrine of Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib."

Umar bin Jubair continues, "The grave of Hasan bin Ali, situated near the gate to it's right hand, has an elevated dome over it. His head lies at the feet of Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib, and both graves are raised high above the ground, their walls are panelled with yellow plates and studded with beautiful star-shaped nails. This is how the grave of Ibrahim, son of the Prophet has also been adorned. Behind the shrine of Abbas there is the house attributed to Fatima, daughter of our Prophet, known as "Bayt al-Ahzaan" (the house of grief) because it is the house she used to frequent in order to mourn the death of her father, the chosen one, peace be upon him. At the farthest end of al-Baqi is the grave of the caliph Uthman, with a small dome over it, and there, next to it, is the grave of Fatima bint Asad, mother of Ali bin Abi Talib."

Ibn Batuta, famous Muslim traveler, after a century and a half of Umar bin Jubair descriptions, described Al-Baqi in an identical manner. Moreover, Ibn Batuta states, "At al-Baqi are the graves of numerous Muhajirin (people who migrated from Mecca to Medina) and Ansar (Medina supporters for Muhammed's cause) and many companions of the Prophet, except that most of their names are unknown."

Accordingly, for centuries, Al-Baqi was sacrosanct, with routine renovations taking place as required, until Wahabis rose to power in the early 19th century. Wahabis desecrated the tombs and show disrespect to the martyrs buried there. Muslims from other schools who disagreed with that move were branded infidels and subsequently killed.

Wahabis believe that visiting graves is idolatry and not Islamic, those who disagreed were branded infidels and killed. Clearly, the rest of the Islamic world viewed these graves with respect. If it not been so, Abu Bakr and Umar would not have expressed their desire to be buried in it.

The Ottoman Empire added value and magnificence to Makkah and Madinah by building religious structures of great beauty. Richard Burton, British explorer, visited the holy shrines in 1853 AD disguised as an Afghan Muslim and adopting the name Abdullah, wrote of Madinah having 55 mosques and holy shrines.

In 1924 AD Wahabis entered Hijaz and carried out a merciless attack. People in the streets were killed and houses were razed to the ground. Awn bin Hashim, Sharif of Makkah, wrote, "Before me, a valley appeared to have been paved with corpses, dried blood staining everywhere all around. There was hardly a tree which didn't have one or two dead bodies near its roots."

In 1925, Madinah surrendered to the Wahabis, all Islamic legacy were destroyed, the only shrine that remained intact was the holy Prophet.

Ibn Jabhan says, "We know that the tomb standing on the Prophet's grave is against our principles, and to have his grave in a mosque is an abominable sin."

Tombs of Hamza and other martyrs were demolished at Uhud. The Prophet's mosque was bombarded. On protest by Muslims, assurances were given by Ibn Saud that it will be restored but the promise was never fulfilled. A promise was given that Hijaz will have an Islamic multinational government. This was also abandoned.

Reference:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jannat_al-Baqi
http://www.al-islam.org/gallery/photos/image2nd.htm
http://www.ezsoftech.com/islamic/baqi.asp

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